Latest success stories from Renaissance Learning

“Renaissance solutions are having a significant impact on children’s desire and ability to read!”

Vision Multi Academy Trust - Sunny Bank Primary School and Higher Lane Primary School, Bury

We spoke to James Gabrielides, Interim Headteacher at Sunny Bank Primary School, who has been using Accelerated Reader and Star Reading for several years in several different schools. James chats to us about the difference that both Accelerated Reader and Star Reading are having on the reading development of pupils. Here’s his story.

We initially brought in Accelerated Reader (AR) and Star Reading (SR) to raise the profile of reading across the Trust. The aim was to provide children with a high level of engagement when they read, and we wanted to ensure that they read for a purpose. Additionally, we needed analytical data that teachers can act upon. Now, we have the data provided by AR and SR intertwined within our reading curriculum and comprehension. The data from AR and SR is fed into reading comprehension lessons, so everything is tied in together.

“Because of AR, we now have high levels of reading motivation for children and high levels of engagement”

Because of AR, we now have high levels of reading motivation for children and high levels of engagement. Children are currently reading and quizzing every day, and most importantly, they enjoy getting good results. Thanks to SR, children have autonomy. They place value on SR because the assessments provide them with their own ZPD book range and now they know what books they’re choosing to read and why.

Across the Trust, we’re also promoting AR and SR with parents at home. We even have the programmes referenced on our website with its own unique URL. Because we don’t want to hold back high attaining readers, if a book has an AR quiz on it, then we encourage children to quiz in evenings at home. Providing access to AR quizzes at home promotes that culture in school to be reading every day. AR is also celebrated by our values in the Trust as we give out value certificates for positive reading development.

“Teachers receive the required information about their classes’ reading progress, and that’s all they need.”

Each week we celebrate a ‘star reader’. A specific member of staff will download the weekly reports and send them straight to the relevant teacher. All this information is shared with the teacher without asking them to carry out more work than necessary. Teachers receive the required information about their classes’ reading progress, and that’s all they need. This is great for our staff’s work-life balance. The data additionally allows teachers to support and celebrate every child’s success.  If they have a child who is not reading much literature but have increased the amount of reading they’re doing over the last week, they might get ‘star reader’. So it allows every child to be ‘star reader’ which consequently promotes confidence for all children. Great readers don’t need to be told they’re great because they already know that. Reluctant readers do need to be reminded that they’re doing great reading.

Both AR and Star can produce a vast amount of reports. All teachers are given a weekly diagnostic report to build on week on week. The report outlines how many minutes/books each pupil has read and their respective overall success rate of quizzes. Subsequently, the teacher then identifies the children that are excelling or those that need further support. Children must carry out an Accelerated Reader quiz at least once a week. However, we are aware that if you have a child reading a lengthy book, then we simply can’t expect them to quiz one a week.

“What is most useful is the report takes into account the pupil’s unique confidence intervals.”

Another report that we find incredibly valuable is the Instructional Planning Report from Star Reading. The report provides a sliding scale from green down to red for every pupil. The information is based on the Star Assessments that the pupil has conducted throughout the year. What is most useful is the report takes into account the pupil’s unique confidence intervals. The report also offers suggested skills for reading comprehension or intervention. This allows our teachers to off both the hard and soft data to provide a well-rounded picture of the pupil’s progress which can be shared with the respective senior leadership team.

We work with PiXL to check if reading development is in line with what our AR and SR data is telling us, and it generally always is. Being a PiXL school allows us to combine info together of reading age and reading development to provide a narrative of learning for each individual pupil. With all this data working collaboratively to provide a holistic overview of every unique learning pathway, we stress that teachers must act on this information. Having said that, it is up to us as senior leaders to provide that time for them to work.

We took one of our teaching assistants and freed her up a spare sixty-minutes a week to have her trained up to run off the AR and SR reports. So, that took care of that aspect for report running. And then we use our weekly CPD opportunity in staff meetings to build that culture of looking at data, analysing and acting on it. As a result, we now have morning challenges. The first fifteen mins of the day is called ‘fix it’. Pupils are expected to work independently, which in theory, frees up your teaching assistants. So after pupils come into school for the day ahead, there will be a morning challenge. If a teaching assistant is in class, they can sit and work with a specific child if an issue has been flagged in AR or SR data.

“Every week, every single comprehension lesson that happens from y1 – y6 we use the suggested skills from the Instructional Planning Report worked into report”.

We now hold weekly comprehension lessons. Every week, in every single comprehension lesson that happens from Year 1 to Year 6, we use the suggested skills from the Instructional Planning Report. A lot of the time, staff write their own questions for students. Thanks to the data provided from the SR Instructional Planning Report, staff can write questions that are matched the pupil’s unique ability. For example, the child might need work on inference. So, the teacher can use the data from SR to retain a group of pupils who all need to work on the skill of inference whilst the rest of the class works independently. That’s where we’ve had the most significant success. Our data tells us what our weekly comprehension sessions should consist of to be bespoke to each class and pupil.

Before we had this essential data, teachers were telling us they were looking for two or three texts to create tailored questions for their class. This invariably took up too much of their valuable time. Eventually, our comprehension lessons didn’t match the writing genre for individual classes or pupils. Consequently, we asked ourselves why don’t we write our own questions based on how they’re worded in a SATs or exam paper. From there, we can check our own questions with SR or PiXL data to make sure the questions are appropriate for the pupil’s ability. Now, each teacher has a class text; usually, a sample text or resource from PiXL. Teachers will write questions around that text, but they will differentiate between levels of ability and pitch questions at appropriate levels based on unique ability. This makes makes planning, preparation and delivery much easier.

“Star Reading makes teachers’ lives ten times easier.”

Star Reading makes teachers’ lives ten times easier. Rather than looking for resources, the questions are already tailor-made for the ability of each pupil across a class. So, Star Reading makes assessment and feedback quicker because it’s generally very accurate. For example, we have a recently qualified teacher (RQT) working in year 1 for the first time. They noticed that Star Reading had identified a pupil with a reading age of 10 years and seven months. This was an unbelievable reading level for that age. Subsequently, the RQT gave the pupil a comprehension paper from Year 4, and she breezed it. Now, the RQT knows precisely where the pupil is with regards to their ability. The RQT is now currently working with a Year 4 teacher to support the child. Both teachers can offer appropriate support for the child based on Star Reading data, and they can this because of the efficiency and accuracy of Star Reading.

AR has supported our outlook on libraries within all of our schools. We believe that the library has got to be an area that children want to spend time. Higher Lane school is having a complete refit of the library. Additionally, the parent’s association of Sunny Bank School helped raise money for the school to add sofas and additional resources for their library. We want to turn sunny bank library into a Starbucks for books! It will have the latest releases and recommendations. At Higher Lane, we undertook an audit of every single book to see what our average ZPD range is. We subsequently discovered that there was a gap for higher ZPD ranges. Because the teaching of comprehension was more comprehensive at Higher Lane, it tied in better with AR. Because the promotion of reading is more extensive, reading scores are getting better every year along with GDS figures. Therefore, we need to invest more to support more proficient readers. So we spent a considerable amount to ensure the library meets the needs of reading in school. Otherwise, a library is simply not fit for purpose. If you haven’t got books to challenge children, then there is no point having AR. We’ve got to find a way of generating income to add books to ZPD ranges. We’ve recently started the same audit at Sunny Bank School.

At Higher Lane, we’ve also introduced a pass it forward scheme. Children can bring in a book that they’ve read, stamp the book and let another child take it home to read. The school will tweet parents to let them know which child donated, so we had hundreds of books being donated in because loads of parents got involved. To continue promoting reading success, we have lots of displays throughout our schools, including a ‘Bookflix’ display. Children also recommend their top 5 reads for year 5 and year 4 so every class has top reads. Every week the top 5 reads are updated on all wall displays in the main corridor at Sunny Bank School. Top read displays also include with recommendations, and if there’s a particular book that’s not in stock, children can leave a suggestion for the English lead to investigate and procure.

More recently, we’ve introduced ‘extreme read’ which includes staff. The challenge is to take a picture of yourself reading in bizarre places. We’ve had children send pictures of themselves reading in a zoo and up a tree! The school’s council will then meet and decide who the ‘extreme read’ competition winners are. We’ve got an Amazon account at Higher Lane School so will let the competition winners pick a book on Amazon. We’re now starting that culture at Sunnybank.

At Sunnybank, the school recently entered a shed-design competition, and the children won a new reading shed for the playground! Now, with our new reading shed, there are plenty of children who are reading at breaktime!

The overall impact of AR & SR reflects in pupils attitudes and performance in reading, and it’s simply nothing short of significant. But it starts and ends with the culture of the school. AR and SR must be intertwined in the school’s reading strategy and curriculum rather than just incidental.

Find out what staff and children at Higher Lane Primary School who’ve been using the programme since 2015 think about Accelerated Reader via their own promotional video!


The numbers don’t lie!

Product usage stats:

  • 4,569 Accelerated Reader quizzes carried out over the last twelve months – an increase of 73%*
  • 516 Star Reading assessments carried out over the last twelve monthsan increase of 9%*
  • Average ZPD level over the last twelve months – an average increase of 74%*
  • Average Accelerated Reader Quiz Percentage Correct of 80% over the last twelve months.*
  • Average Accelerated Reader Reading Level over the last twelve months – an average increase of 69%*
  • Average Star Reading Scaled Score over the last twelve months – an average of increase of 23%*
  • Average time per Star Reading test over the last twelve months is 16 Minutes 49 Seconds*

*2020 product usage stats will be distorted due to school closures March 2020 resulting in infrequent quizzing/testing

External stats (DfE):

  • Sunny Bank Primary School achieving a ‘Well Above Average’ Reading Progress Score in 2019, based on the school’s unique confidence intervals, this means the school still performed the same or better than 90% of other primary schools with the same confidence intervals.
  • Sunny Bank Primary School saw an increase in Reading Progress Score from 2017 – 2019 an increase of over + 170% forecasting a continued increase of + 71% by 2021*
  • Sunny Bank Primary School is performing better than 95% of other primary schools in the local authority of Bury based on Reading Progress Score.
  • Sunny Bank Primary School is performing better than 73% of other primary schools in England with similar pupil population figures and whose pupils entered KS1 with similar prior attainment.

*All forecasts are sourced from DfE data and calculated prior to school closures March 2020

To find out how Accelerated Reader or Star Reading can support your school, click here.

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